Dispatch from Early Spring

I may be a couple of days early, but it is definitely the early days of spring here. Our record-breaking snows of the last couple of months have started receding at an alarming pace — those of you downstream, be prepared! — and what was thigh and waist deep snow a week ago now is ankle deep or less. In fact, for the first time in quite a while, I saw a couple patches of actual ground in my backyard last night.  The birds have erupted in song and we’ve had our first Brown-Headed Cowbirds and Grackles of the year visiting our house. I even caught a glimpse of a Robin flying over our yard yesterday. Yes, it seems spring is on the way.

As it goes in these parts, however, winter to spring is not a smooth transition. Worries of too much snow on our roof have morphed into dealing with a sump pump pipe that is still frozen. While we did not have any issues with damage or flooding in our basement, I did spend a fair bit of time last week preventatively hauling water out of our sump well in 10 gallon Shop-Vac loads (thank goodness there were no stairs involved!) until we were able to rig an outdoor waterfall pump to do the heavy lifting for us until we can give the system enough time to fully thaw. It’ll be a while before we know the fate of the actual sump pump or what the blockage is, but we are hopeful it’s just a matter of letting things thaw out. In the grand scheme of things, I’m thankful that this was just an inconvenience and that we were dealing with the issues before there was actually damage to anything and that now I just have to roll the hose out and plug in the pump. You do what you have to do, but I’m happy to not have to take those multiple trips lifting 10 gallons of water (google tells me that’s about 85 lbs) anymore!

While we awake to the flurry of spring and deal with all that entails, I’ve of course caught the spring cleaning bug as well. No, I’ve not been watching Marie Kondo on Netflix (I read the book when it came out) like the rest of the world. I’m not sure if it’s normal or not, but every year I actually enjoy spring cleaning. There is something about the seasonal change that inspires a fresh, clean start in me. We’ve been in our “new” home almost 2 years now and I’ve been making some minor adjustments in functionality — a broom rack in one closet, a couple hooks in another — and trying to formulate better ways to make tidying more accessible and easier to do regularly. I’ve just, I’ve got a hankering to make things around here a bit more efficient, I suppose you could say. I don’t anticipate this lasting long, so I’m going to ride the wave and enjoy the benefits of it while I can!

But it’s not been all work and fighting the elements and tidying up around here. There has been time for play. The footing on the rotten snow is terrible for hiking, but we’ve been going out anyways. Bear likes to protest a little on the front end as he’s still not very happy about riding in the car. When we start to suit up and ask him if he wants to go on an adventure, he bolts for his crate and does this.

ef5c9e7b-f4d6-4852-a830-2b64f1f90364

Moose, for those who might not be aware, has always loved going along, no matter what we’re doing. If he could open doors, Moose would be the first one in the car every time. It’s definitely new for us to have to convince a pup to go.  Isn’t that just the case with siblings though? What one loves, the other loathes. C’est la vie!

img_6379

In any case, once we’re out of the car, Mr. Bear is a happy fellow and is proving almost as good of a trail dog as his big brother. I saw “big” with a grain of salt as this is my hand and Bear’s paw print.

img_6376

While it’s true that Bear is much fluffier so size comparisons are deceptive with these two, they are growing ever closer in size.

53503837_10155753908502000_4650450924362268672_o

They are both very happy good boys though.ee2ab9b8-dae4-492b-aa15-fd3742b8b750

And they are enjoying the last hurrahs of winter, to be sure.

When not tearing up the trails wit us, they are proving worthy spinning and knitting supervisors.

b6cf334a-639c-446a-8ccf-7771c86a9f6a

And I’ve been working on a few things in my spare time as well.

This morning I turned the heel on sock #2 of a new pair of socks for Mr. KS.

img_6437

I’m going to try to work on this over morning coffee — I think that’s the best recipe for getting it finished in a timely manner.

I also started a new sweater!

img_6436

It is Tanis Lavallee’s French Braid Cardigan. It’s an interesting construction so far — this is actually the collar which you cast-on with a provisional cast-on, work one direction and then go back to the cast-on and work the other direction so you have live stitches on both ends. My center pick-up is a little messy, but I think it’ll block right on for me. In any case, I’m about to pick-up stitches and begin the actual raglan part of the sweater. So far, I’m really enjoying this one.

I’ve also got 2 spinning projects ready to ply!

img_6439

This is Tranquil Gleam on a BFL + Nylon base.

img_6440

And this is Common Ground on Falkland, both from Three Waters Farm and both destined to be traditional 3-plies for the Skill Builder SAL happening over in the group. I’m hoping to start plying later today as I just pulled fiber out of my stash for my next traditional 3-ply spin! I was totally inspired by a member in the group to spin a gradient and I’ve got just the perfect two colorways with which to experiment!

And with this dispatch, this little update from the wee moments of spring, I’m off! I’ve got things to tidy, dogs to play with, yarn to spin, and socks & sweaters to knit! I hope that spring is springing where you are and you are feeling inspired today, too!

Zen And The Art of Darning Socks

Sometime toward the end of last week it became apparent that almost half of Mr. Knitting Sarah’s handknit socks were starting to go threadbare. When it rains, it pours, right?! I mentioned to Mr. KS that I’d started another pair, but that he might need to supplement with some ready-to-wear socks. He informed me that he’s totally converted to handknits and doesn’t intend to go back. I was kind of shocked because I thought he might be kind of ecstatic at the chance to integrate some RTW socks into his rotation, but as a knitter I knew I needed to jump into action. That one pair of socks I was working on was not going to cut it! I needed a new plan. I knew it was time to get darning!

I spent the first 2 days of the great sock repair extravaganza of 2019 (which included a whopping 4 pairs of socks) working in Swiss darning. “Swiss darning” is the same thing as duplicate stitch, for those who weren’t aware. I just think “Swiss darning” sounds way more elegant so I like to go with that name (because I can!). In any case, one pair had a pretty small hole near the toe which was relatively easy to fix. The next pair we decided we would just let nature take its course because the socks are 6 years old and entirely stockinette where Mr. KS prefers a 2×2 ribbing on the top of the foot and cuff for a better fit. It’s weird to relegate them to just be worn until their eventual demise, but we agreed that it was time better spent to work on a new pair that fit better than to prolong the life of this pair.  And so I was down to the last two pairs.

The first pair, I darned. And I darned. And I darned.

06660a77-7be2-443a-8183-b6cc141141ff

I was reinforcing the foot in each sock as well as areas along the decreases on the toes, all of which were showing a lot of wear. I didn’t have any yarn that matched, so I just grabbed a skein of similar yarn that I didn’t think Mr. KS would want a full pair of socks from. Since the mending would all be hidden within a shoe, the bolder colors would be hidden, after all. After what felt like Swiss darning forever, Mr. KS was ecstatic with the outcome.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I wasn’t really going for pretty with these, just functional. A band-aid for the sock shortage of 2019 and I’m fairly confident they’ll do the trick for a while. I was really concerned that the patches would feel weird or uncomfortable, but Mr. KS assured me they were great and he was very happy.

After darning what felt like a lot of real estate on these, I was curious to try a different technique. Instead of the relative tedium of Swiss darning — as elegant as that name may sound, it is still pretty grueling — what if I would just cut off the worn part of the foot and re-knit the whole thing through the toe? Surely the ability to go into auto-pilot knitting with a basic foot and toe would be faster than trying to neatly Swiss darn 1/3 of the footbed, right? I resolved to try it and compare. I mean, you’ll never know unless you try!

Normally I’d look up loads of tutorials since I’d never tried anything like this. I mean, I’d never cut my knitting for steeking even! But I just kind of visualized what I thought would work and went for it. I’ve probably knit close to 100 pairs of socks at this point, so I am pretty confident in the ins and outs of handknit socks and figured based on the terrible state of this pair, I wasn’t going to make them any worse!

57404417427__0367735d-e3d8-4590-949b-29b0e8330eff

It was surprisingly easy. I used a set of one size smaller DPNs to pick up the stitches just because it made the process a little easier. The variegated yarn also helped me to stay in the correct round when picking up stitches. Since I could literally pick anywhere to start, I chose a round that both stood out from the one next to it and was one consistent color all the way around just to make picking up that much easier. The ribbing was a bit trickier until I knew what I was looking for, but I figured it out. Before I knew it, I had the sock on the needles, the worn foot & toe cut off, and I was knitting it off the smaller needles and back onto my 3mm (Mr. KS prefers sport/DK weight socks, hence the 3mm needles). Easy peasy!

4dde7f08-339f-4638-9134-e97720e7270a

For those wondering, this was the old foot & toe.

57404578304__c3445dc6-7a5c-4ae6-98ce-7a85cfe64713

You can see it was already darned once and the rest of the knitting was almost threadbare.

I took no scientific measurements because I was just exploring the technique this time around, but I would venture to guess that for this extensive of a mending project it was probably about equal to Swiss darning the whole thing, if not a smidge faster. And the second sock was definitely much faster to get set up and back on the needles. I took a little more time to add some heel reinforcement as well with a little duplicate stitch… er… I mean Swiss darning.

img_6361

I was already that far into it with the toes, I might as well take some precautions on those heels as well, right?!

And I’m happy to report that Mr. KS loves his mended socks!

img_6359

I just looked them up on Ravelry and these are also 6 years old! Considering Mr. KS spends 10 hours a day, 5 days a week minimum on his feet and has been wearing this pair regularly for the first 4 years of its life and pretty exclusively in rotation with about 5 other handknit pairs the past 2, they have held up remarkably well, I think! Yes, they are still worn, but the fact that re-knitting and reinforcing might buy another year or so out of this yarn is pretty remarkable. And knitting a couple toes and heels is much faster than knitting a whole new pair of men’s size 13 socks!

img_6360

And what a great way to use a yarn that’s not exactly Mr. KS’ palette, too!

I’ve been pretty shocked throughout the process at Mr. KS’ enthusiasm for this mending of his handknit socks. Honestly, I always kind of look at him when we’re discussing it, waiting for him to crack a joke about my dedication to such a weird process because there are a lot of things in the knitting and spinning world that he loves that I love, but he himself does not understand. It turns out mending is not on that list. Instead, he explained this morning that he really appreciates the process of not just pitching the socks when they are worn. There’s something special, he said, about giving them a second life. And in that sentiment, there is something that touches my heart.

I’ve come full circle now to see that the mending honors the time commitment of creating the socks in the first place. To give them a little TLC, a gentle refurb, a small time investment in order to let them live a longer life — that’s placing a value on them that I don’t think we consider as much as we probably should when it comes to the ‘things’ in our daily lives. In the throes of the project, it was easy to see it as a tedious task, for me to make comments about how it was a true sign of love to mend because it is so boring. I won’t say mending is my favorite thing in the world to work on, but by the end of this process and by seeing my husband’s enthusiasm for his drawer full of mended socks, I’m looking at it all from a much more zen place. How wonderful that I have the time and skills to be able to take these socks that were essentially a couple weeks away from the trash and breath another life into them. Another season of hiking, another year of toasty toes on the cool floors on spring mornings, another first truly chilly day of fall — another year of handknit socks.

The next time I take on a mending project, I have no doubt that I’ll approach it with more patience, maybe even just a hint of reverence for the time and love this project represents and how mending it is really the way you honor that. I’ll be sure to document it better for all of you, my friends, so you can add the same handy skills to your knitting toolkit. And so that you, too, can discover (if you haven’t already) zen and the art of darning socks.

 

The Accidental Year of Large Projects

Somehow I’ve started 2019 off with some good progress working my way through sweater quantities in my stash. Honestly, that’s not what I necessarily set out to do, but after the good start with my Weekender sweater I started labeling my handspun and realized I needed to free up some room on my shelves  for this new handspun yarn.

What’s the quickest way to make space on shelves? Knit a lot of yarn. More specifically, knit a lot of heavier weight yarn! And there’s not quicker way to free up space on the shelves that to knit heavier weight sweaters. Enter my Milliken knit!

It was probably a year ago at about this time that I saw the pattern and thought about how nice it would be to have a cozy knitted vest for hiking. There are so many days in the shoulder seasons when just keeping my core warm is enough and in spring especially, it is so freeing after a winter trapped in a parka. I have a knit sweater made from Quince & Co Ibis, their newly discontinued Bulky weight wool/mohair blend, and it’s super warm. I don’t mean to tempt fate as we’ve seen some pretty COLD temps this year, but that sweater is almost too warm for more than the chilliest days. Yes, a vest made out of Ibis would do nicely, I thought. Somewhere during the year I acquired the yarn and then once my Weekender was done, I cast on.img_5702

This is the only in-progress photo that I have I think. That’s probably because it barely took me two weeks to complete it. The pattern is simple and fun and the yarn is as scrummy as I remember it (I’m more than a little bummed it’s disco’ed!). I followed the directions for the body, going a bit generous in the main body for a slightly longer vest, but not a ton. I knew this yarn would block out on the generous side so I didn’t want to overdo it, but I also needed to go beyond the “hits at wearer’s waist” element because that length definitely cuts my body type in an unflattering way. That’s not even considering the cold drafts I’d encounter with a shorter length — I definitely did not want any drafts interrupting my coziness! Minor length adjustment made, I’m very pleased with the results!

img_6333I would definitely recommend this knit for anyone in need of a bulky vest. It’s a quick, easy knit and I think the finished garment has really lovely designs elements. From that garter + slip stitch patterning on the front…

img_6346

To the garter side detail and little split hem.

img_6342

And the cozy cowl neck.

img_6334

There was some disagreement in my house as to whether or not I should add the cowl on to the neck. It’s an add-on after the rest of the vest is completed, so it’s one of those elements you can add or leave off very easily. Mr. Knitting Sarah was solidly anti-cowl neck, but in the end I opted to put it on and see what it looked like knowing it would be easy to rip back out if I didn’t like it.

I picked up my stitches and got to knitting on the cowl. As I knit on it, I realized I really did not want the shaping in the pattern and wondered, what would this look like if I just left the shaping out? I was a little nervous it would be unwieldy or ginormous, but again, what’s the harm in trying? This led to questions about how long to knit on it, if I was not shaping it. Oh, so many questions. I knit on. I ended up using up most of one skein of yarn and a stretchy bind-off. The stretchy bind-off was another roll of the dice because I didn’t want the collar to be crazy, but I didn’t want to be choked by my cowl neck. It worked great! Hooray for improvising as you go and always buying an extra skein of yarn for garments!

I’ve got another sweater on the drying rack already, but I’ve taken a few days off of sweater knitting while I finish up a pair of socks for my hubby and darn a few pairs, too. It seems all his socks are failing at the same time, so I need to get him sorted out before my next large project gets underway. I’m very excited to get going on it though — I’ve got three sweaters picked out already — French Braid Cardigan, Seaboard Sweater, and Cassis — and I’m happy to report they will all be knit from stash yarn! I’m hoping to make headway on them before the weather gets too warm, but I also want to get into my linen sweater quantities this summer so I’ll play it all out by ear depending on how far I get.

Suffice to say though, I’m focused and really enjoying these big projects! It’s really kind of thrilling to take these yarns I’ve been sort of hoarding for the *perfect* moment and just knitting the heck out of them and creating the garments of my dreams. The accidental year of large projects? I’m all in!

 

 

Wolf Ridge Weekender

January 2016 feels like a lifetime ago for so many reasons. My kiddos were four years younger. Moose was practically still a pup at just 3 years old. We drove a car we no longer own. Lived in a house we sold almost 2 years ago. Bear was not even a twinkle in his mama’s eye yet. So many of those familiar aspects of daily life have changed. When I stop to really think about it, it is truly astonishing.

But it was in January 2016 that my family and I took a little drive… to Montana.

img_2190

And this little farm.

Wolf Ridge Icelandics is just outside of Yellowstone National Park and my husband arranged for a stop on the way toward the park where we planned to (and did!) frolic among the wolves and bison and elk and ermine and dippers of Yellowstone. Some of the pictures are missing from the blog post — I’m not quite sure what’s going on with that — but if you’d like to read the original post, it’s right here.

We didn’t go to find the wildlife, however, until I found some special yarn.

img_2194

I had to really dig back to figure out what I’d planned to make with this yarn originally. Turns out I’d intended to knit Andrea Mowry’s White Pine. I started it at one point, but something about it didn’t *click*. The yarn actually sat wound into cakes for a year or more after I abandoned the project as I turned over and over in my mind the options I had and went about the business of other things.

At the beginning of this year, however, I decided it was time to start knitting sweater quantities from my stash. Something about spinning and then knitting my Tecumseh sweater ingrained in me the idea that if I could spin and knit this huge cozy sweater, then I could knit any sweater — from millspun or handspun yarn. It was time to stop putting off all those projects for the perfect set of circumstances, the perfectly fit body, the perfect everything, and just knit them up, wear them, and have fun with it.

And thus when our January trip to Missouri to visit Mr. KS’ family was coming up, I grabbed those caked skeins, knit up a swatch, and cast-on before we left so I could knit on the 10+ hour drive.

img_5393-1

And when it became clear that spinning was not going to work during our visit with the needs of the puppy, the time not spent running about with the dogs was spent like this…

pups

With needles in hand and Weekender inches adding up.

And by the time I got home, I was on to the sleeves.img_5613-1

There’s something to be said for that much driving and down time while visiting when it comes to progress on a big stockinette project like this. And for those wondering, you do knit the body of this design inside out so even though you get the reverse stockinette style in the finished sweater, it’s more accessible for those who are less smitten with purling. I bound off on February 4th, just one month and one day after starting it. Especially considering the mega amounts of positive ease involved, I’m pretty ecstatic with that timeline!

With all the sickness in the house this month (today we do all feel like we’ve turned a corner toward feeling normal, though — hooray!), I don’t have any modeled images of it on me, but so that I could share it without further delay, I snapped some pictures on my dressform this morning.

img_6159

It does look like what it is… a giant boxy sweater!

img_6161

The drop shoulder design really makes the body & upper arm areas extra roomy.

img_6160

 And I cannot get the color picked up properly with the camera so you’ll have to take my word for it that the light heathery-ness of the color with varying hues of white to a mid-brown have a depth that is just scrumptious. About halfway through I panicked that the yarn was too light for this sweater, but I actually think it worked out wonderfully. And it is plenty warm which is perfect for I intend to throw it on for shoulder season hiking out on the trail.

img_6163

And when I see it and when I wear it, I’m so glad to be able to reach back in my memory to that other lifetime. To the ermine hopping across the road and the wolves we had such amazing looks at in the Lamar Valley to the coyote trotting along the road to the kids in the super deep snow up in the mountains, and the little farm nestled up against the mountains where a flock of Icelandic sheep live.

img_6164

Memories in a sweater — is there a better way to capture them?

Ply Twist Takes Center Stage

This month’s Skill Builder challenge in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry group was focused on 2-ply yarns. I had the pleasure of spinning with their February Calendar Colorway, East Window on their Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk 80/20 base.

il_fullxfull.1813370619_c611-1
Photo courtesy of Three Waters Farm

Due to travel and sickness in my house, I’m a bit behind in sharing it, but better late than never, right?!

As I shared earlier, I always take the time to pre-draft this particular base. I just find it spins a little easier that way. If you’ve got a cultivated silk (also called “mulberry silk”) spin on the horizon, you can check out this video I shared for how I prep my fiber.

Since the goal was a two ply, I first split the fiber into its three color repeats. And then each of those 3 repeats I split in 2, creating 6 more or less even pieces. The first 3 pieces I spun as is, end to end.img_5897

For the second 3 pieces, I broke each piece into 2, 3, or 4 pieces (or more!). I like randomness in my barberpoling skeins, so I find purposely breaking the fiber into uneven pieces and in different ways helps with that. I spun both portions each onto their own bobbin.

img_5934

You can see how different the color repeats are even in this photo!

 I had hoped to create a video of how I ply my 2-ply yarns because I think there’s no other type of yarn where ply twist quite takes center stage, but with a house full of sick family, including my husband who was diagnosed with pneumonia this week, it just didn’t happen. I do plan to make a video of this though at some time in the near future though and I’ll be sure to share it here when that happens. I find that because the idea of a 2-ply yarn is so basic, it is often overlooked as far as instruction goes and I’d like to share how I find the amount of ply twist that I like to work with.

While we wait for me to get a video together, though, I can share a couple photos.

img_6153

This is the amount of ply twist I usually look for while I’m plying a 2-ply yarn when the yarn is under tension, but not yet up on the wheel.

img_6115When it’s wound up onto the bobbin…

img_6154

And without tension, but still on the wheel. I used to subscribe to the idea that a “balanced” yarn is one that will lay limp and flat in this same position, but over the years I’ve landed firmly in the camp that would label those limp yarns as underplied. That’s not to say there is not a place for low twist yarns, but generally speaking I want my handspun to have some soft twist in a plyback test while plying. It just makes a better yarn. This spin is probably a smidge more ply twist than I’d call ideal. With a snap or a thwack to even out the twist after a nice bath, all that extra twist relaxes and you get this…

img_6151

It’s a finished skein with just enough ply twist to make the yarn plump and full of life & energy, but not so much to be twisting out of control.

img_6150

It’s going to make a great knitting yarn to be sure!

img_6149

I just love the colorway — from the true yellow and grey to the soft blues and oranges. And I’ve really come to love the Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk base, too, as it makes such a nice yarn. Today is the last day to pre-order your very own East Window on Organic Polwarth/Mulberry Silk from Three Waters Farm, so if you want to give it a whirl you still have time!

And March’s Skill Builder in the TWF Group will start tomorrow! We’ll be taking a closer look at traditional 3-ply yarns and I can’t wait to get started! Since my spinning time was limited this past month, I’m hoping to make up for some lost time at the wheel in March. The featured Calendar Colorway for March is Common Ground on Falkland and it’s available already for pre-order! It’s time to get spinning some traditional 3-ply yarns!